American Studies Home Site Map Gallery of Prints Writing Across the Curriculum Currier & Ives Introduction Currier & Ives Opening

A happy family in a log cabin; a real couple beside a sod home.

"The Pioneer's Home. On the Western Frontier." 1867

Pioneers made their homes of whatever was available. Their dwellings ranged from lean-tos to log cabins, dugouts to sod houses. In the prairie, sod houses and dugouts were free for the labor and therefore the most common. Wood had to be purchased and shipped at too high a cost for most settlers.

Houses, barns,schools, and post offices are among the types of buildings constructed of sod. They had no electricity, just dirt walls sealed with newspapers or book pages torn from the binding and mixed with spit and the mucilage from the hooves of dead animals to try to seal out the wind.

Women and especially children rarely went far from the home. The nearest town might be many miles away and entail a dangerous trek through unsafe territory.

With walls three feet thick, a well-built sod house was cool in the summer and warm in the winter. However, many houses were thrown up quickly and had many holes in both walls and roof. The roofs tended to leak, and lighting was poor. Insanity was a frequent price of a long winter with the wind howling at the cracks.

Floors were of dirt, although some families could afford rough split logs or carpet. Some homeowners tried straw, but that encouraged fleas. Cleaning was impossible. Pioneers shared their homes with bugs, snakes, and other vermin.

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American Studies Home Site Map Gallery of Prints Writing Across the Curriculum Currier & Ives Introduction Currier & Ives Opening

Site created by Marcy McDonald, American Studies, UVA. Last modified: July 30, 2005. E-mail: asgrp@virginia.edu

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